By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – For Ole Miss, the game at Georgia on Saturday is big on a number of fronts, but the off-field game – recruiting – is never far away.
Saturday provides a rare chance for a presence in the Atlanta area, the South’s most fertile recruiting ground.
Hugh Freeze understands the importance of playing before a lot of prospects there, whether they attend in person, watch on TV or keep up through the magic and wonder of social media. Freeze believes they’ll see the good things going on in the program.
Freeze: “Georgia is such a highly recruited state and there are so many players there. You know that their eyes are going to be on this game, so I do think it’s important. It’s important that they see there is progress being made within our program and that there’s an opportunity for them to add to that depth and make a difference.
“They’ll see great team energy, a great passion from our kids and hopefully a competitive spirit that will be attractive to them.”
After he was hired last December, Freeze’s transitional class was ranked No. 58 by Scout, No. 40 by Rivals.
Scout had it last in the SEC, Rivals had it at No. 13.
Early returns are strong for a 2013 class now ranked No. 20 by Scout, No. 22 by Rivals.
That being said, what Freeze has been able to get out of his on-the-run effort is pretty impressive.
A total of 13 true freshmen have played, tying for sixth-most in the nation. That they would play is not surprising. That they would produce and contribute to five wins through the first two months is another matter.
And the hits keep coming. It’s not like there were a few names in the group who were good at the beginning, and that was that. Guys like Mike Hilton and Quintavius Burdette in the secondary have only recently worked their way into significant roles.
The lack of depth right now – translated as a lack of players to fit the system – keeps Freeze from running his tempo offense as much as he’d like.
In the game on the field, the Rebels, one win from bowl eligibility, will be the underdogs. They are not expected to win.
Ole Miss, though, has that aura about it right now that causes you to expect the unexpected. If the Rebels could get on the plus side of the scoreboard it would be a shocker, the best chapter yet in this developing story.
Equally important in Freeze’s restoration project will be gaining notice from recruits, then convincing some of them to join a program that already includes 10 players from Georgia.
Upsetting the Bulldogs would be huge.
However, it’s possible this week to lose the day and win the future.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.